J&J Lung Cancer Initiative

“We are excited to be collaborating with Boston University in this important mission and bringing the research and development expertise of our consumer, medical device, and pharmaceutical groups together to address this critical need for patients around the world.”

– William Hait, J&J Global Head of Global External Innovation

In 2018, BU partnered with Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC (J&J) in a five-year collaboration aimed at preventing, intercepting, and curing lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.


Lung cancer kills more people in the United States than any other type of cancer. More die from lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer rates are going up internationally, including in China and among women. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 17.8 percent, significantly lower than the survival rates for other common cancers.


BU researchers are working closely with members of J&J’s Lung Cancer Initiative to develop biomarker-based early-screening tests for lung cancer, as well as therapeutics to arrest or eradicate the disease in its earliest stages. The initiative establishes a Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Center on Boston University’s Medical Campus, and builds from two extensive lung cancer research studies being conducted at BU. The alliance will also give rise to additional pilot programs developed by teams from across BU and advanced with close collaboration from J&J.


The new center is led by Avrum Spira, a BU School of Medicine professor of medicine, pathology, and bioinformatics, and a pioneering researcher in the genomics and early detection of lung cancer. Spira had previously served as a consultant on lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) research with Janssen Research & Development, the pharmaceuticals arm of Johnson & Johnson.


While the diagnostic and therapeutic impact of the initiative is still to come, all players agree that the collaboration will allow for more rapid application of research and discovery to with clinical treatment.

In the words of BU President Robert A. Brown, “I am confident that the alliance between J&J and BU will produce life-saving, life-changing breakthroughs and will become a model for how a research university can collaborate with a great corporate partner.”